The Language of Righting Wrongs
The other night at my Spanish class I saw a woman I knew, but I couldn’t remember where I’d met her. So I introduced myself and we did that thing where you both list all your affiliations and social activities, looking for anything that connects.
One of the activities I mentioned was my work with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). Her eyes lit up. She said she’d never heard of SNAP, so I told her about the group and it’s work with survivors. And naturally, she was curious how I got involved with that group.
Priest Abuse – the Issue We All Agree On
As happens with most people who hear my story, before long we were discussing the systemic problem of priest abuse in the Catholic Church. It is one of the most unifying topics in the world today. Everyone is appalled by what’s been going on, what continues to occur.
“Aren’t you angry?” she said. “I’m angry. Children are still being abused by priests even though the Pope speaks of zero tolerance.”
Admitting I’m Angry at the Catholic Church
My first inclination is always to say no, I am no longer angry about how the church treated me. Anger isn’t an emotion I cherish or want to carry in me. I don’t want to fight the church, change it, or mend it. I have already given enough to it. I want to help and support others in healing from abuse and betrayal by sharing the ways I have accomplished this in my life. But … yes, it’s there.
From the American Psychological Association
“Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage,” according to Charles Spielberger, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.”
I dislike falling prey to that powerless sense of rage that so much of our news seems designed to evoke. When I’m dissatisfied, I much prefer taking action or having a serious conversation to try to make things better.
And yet anger is a sign of life and energy. In that regard, it’s what jump starts us into resolve and determination to right wrongs and make things better. That is the kind of anger I believe in.
So I said I wasn’t angry, that disgusted is how I feel about the Church’s continuing role in harming and not protecting children. But perhaps that’s just parsing words.
According to the psychological research group Emotionwise:
“Disgust is an emotion marked by aversion to something that is highly distasteful. Related to disgust are feelings of repulsion, abhorrence, loathing, revulsion, and sickness.
When people feel disgust, they experience a strong impulse to avoid the item that caused them to feel that way.”
I’ll admit that, on occasion I do let my disgust with the church become anger at the church. For instance, when I hear things like the Pope is working to release a pedophile priest from prison, or has chosen a bishop who has protected priest offenders as one of his advisers, I just get mad. Still, it’s an anger mixed with disgust, aversion and loathing. It affirms my desire to never again be apart of such dysfunction and illness.
I’m Not Alone in Feeling Disgusted By the Catholic Church
Under the category Disgusting, The Daily Beast published an article this week entitled How Sicko Priests Got Away With It. Here are some excerpts. If they don’t disgust you, they may make you angry.
The details of the abuse may change, running the gamut from fondling and masturbation to full penetration and child pornography, but the pattern is largely the same: very few abusers ever face criminal courts, and only a scant few face Vatican justice.
Last year the Vatican admitted that it had defrocked 848 priests between 2004 and 2013, without specifying where they are from. The number is small in relation to the total number of known allegations and proven abuses kept by victims’ groups.
The American Church is thought to have the highest number of cases, an assumption supported by the fact it has paid out the astronomical sum of $2.5 billion in compensation to victims through legal settlements, according to Vatican records released to the United Nations last year. It also paid some $74 million in counseling services and about $50 million in legal fees, according to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s Geneva envoy who faced a United Nations Committee on Torture last May.
“There’s no climate of impunity,” Tomasi told the U.N. panel. “There’s total commitment to clean the house, to work to not have a repetition of abuses.”
If that’s the case, then why don’t dioceses do more to help the state protect the children and prosecute their abusers?
According to Tomasi’s records, there are fewer than 150 priests—current and defrocked—known to be in jails for sex abuse worldwide right now. But that figure begs the question: where are the rest? “Of the proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics, some are deceased, a few are imprisoned, a few live in church facilities and are allegedly monitored,” David Clohessy, the head of the Survivors Network for Those Abused By Priests or SNAP told The Daily Beast. “But we believe the vast majority have never been defrocked, so they keep collecting church paychecks while living and working among unsuspecting families, neighbors, and colleagues, while also working hard to stay beneath the radar.”
If Clohessy is right then there are a great many known pedophile priests wandering around the world who still have access to minors, not just in the United States, but across Europe and elsewhere as well.”
Yes, there’s plenty there to justify our feeling angry with the Catholic church. But whether you say you’re angry at the church, as my friend does, or identify the way you feel as disgust, like me, you likely agree the church is sunk in a deplorable situation. So find a way to express your discontent and join us in working together to hold priests and bishops accountable for these things that royally piss us off.